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Hard Girls Are Quitting Their Day Jobs

In Music
Hard Girls play a rickety, rollicking style of indie punk that emphasizes raw emotion over polished chops.

Hard Girls play a rickety, rollicking style of indie punk that emphasizes raw emotion over polished chops.

Fifteen seconds into Hard Girls’ newest album, A Thousand Surfaces, the band explodes with more power and ferocity than anything you’ll find on any of the San Jose group’s previous recordings. It’s the kind of agitated, visceral energy missing from a lot of punk rock these days.

As on prior records, their sonic palette borrows more from bands like Guided by Voices, Television and Pavement than the Ramones or Black Flag. But this time around, Hard Girls attack their songs with the immediacy of a high school garage band—while approaching their upcoming tours as the seasoned veterans they are.

The three-piece have never been this focused or concise. Though they’ve been playing together for more than five years, Hard Girls has always been a part-time venture. But last year, the boys decided to take the plunge—quitting jobs or taking demotions in order to free up the necessary time to make the band their primary focus. And it shows.

“I don’t think we would have ever written these songs if we didn’t have as much desperation,” says bassist/vocalist Morgan Herrell. “Our attitude has changed—we’ve made them more to-the-point. We’re writing the best music we’ve ever written.”

The strength of A Thousand Surfaces doesn’t come solely from its intensity. In fact, the record features some of the band’s softest moments. It just feels as if every note is purposeful and deliberate. And that’s no accident. Unlike on previous albums, Hard Girls went into the studio knowing every song backwards and forwards.

“For Isn’t it Worse, we weren’t really prepared,” Herrell says, speaking of the band’s 2012 release. “We only had five actual songs (of nine) written. So everything was kind of haphazard. On this one, we worked really hard at making them sound exactly how we wanted them to.”

It’s no surprise they treated the recording process of A Thousand Surfaces more seriously. They went into the studio shortly after making the decision to prioritize the band. They released the record in June of 2014.

Once it was recorded they knew they wanted to hit the road to promote it, but they were surprised at the level of tours they were offered. For the second half of 2014, they provided support for Andrew Jackson Jihad, Pup, Antarctigo Vespucci, and Broadcaster.

It’s a new experience for the band. Before Hard Girls formed, guitarist and vocalist Mike Huguenor was a part of jangle-punk group Shinobu, and Herrell and Feshbach were in post-punk band Pteradon. During those bands’ runs in the early- to mid-2000s, they were hard-pressed to get anyone to come see them, and were usually stuck playing with screamo and metalcore bands. The two bands became close friends, played together all the time, and even shared a practice space because they felt like the odd ducks in the San Jose music scene.

“We were the only ones that wanted to hear each other,” Herrell says.

Both bands dissolved within a few months of each other. Everyone in Shinobu besides Huguenor moved out of California, and the third member of Pteradon quit to focus on work. Huguenor, Herrell and Feshbach were literally the last three standing—and they already shared a practice space. Since they had all put so much work into their prior bands, hitting their heads on the wall just to get some recognition, they approached Hard Girls more as a fun project.

“We both felt like the bands before had a sound, and when we started this we were like, we’re just going to do songs, whatever they are, not worry about a sound,” Huguenor says. It turned out to be the right strategy.

“We toured more last year than we ever have before combined,” Huguenor says, joking that it would have been nicer to have hit on this kind of tour earlier in his musical career. “I think we picked an inconvenient time to do this—it’s a lot easier when you’re 24 and don’t have a job. When you’re 30, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do—but I think it’s the right time. We’re trying to make it work.”

The tours seemed like a cosmic reward for finally taking the leap of faith with the band. Not only were they on the road with bands that drew well, but they were in front of audiences that appreciate offbeat, creative punk-influenced bands. By the end of the year, A Thousand Surfaces showed up on several top album of the year list on music blogs. This year they are planning to tour a whole lot more behind the album. They play their first show of 2015 at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center this weekend (sharing the bill with local emo-punks Bread Club, who are playing their last show).

Hard Girls are playing the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose on Jan. 17 at 6:30pm.

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